Donaldina is a coffee lover and freelance writer from Tanzania. Coffee runs deep in her family - tracing its roots to her grandmother’s running of their first coffee farm in the mid-70s. She enjoys spending her time writing and co-running her grandmother's small robusta coffee farm with her sister in northwest Tanzania during the summer seasons.
Importance Of Pre-Roasting Preparation
Pre-roasting preparation is just as necessary as the actual coffee-roasting process! This is because coffee roasting is a pretty precise task and requires precision. So, going into the task without proper predation is a recipe for disaster – primarily under or over-roasted coffee beans!
Preparing for coffee roasting involves putting together the necessary equipment, setting up the roasting area, and even preparing the green coffee beans to use.
Necessary Equipment For Coffee Roasting
Coffee roasting calls for the use of special equipment.
Coffee Roasting At Home
If you are roasting your coffee at home, you don’t need to invest in multiple pieces of equipment. A good quality small-scale roaster for home use is enough for roasting your coffee. If you lack the funds to invest in a coffee roaster, you can improvise with other home appliances, like an air fryer, oven, or handheld stovetop roaster. However, you want to exercise extra caution if you opt for these alternatives to ensure positive results.
Commercial Coffee Roasting
On the other hand, if you intend to roast green coffee beans for commercial purposes, like in a roastery or coffee shop, you have to go the extra mile. Investing in a commercial roastery requires stocking it with more equipment.
Here is the basic equipment for coffee roasting;
Coffee Roaster Machine
A coffee roaster machine is the number one machine to consider purchasing for a coffee roaster. After all, this large appliance does all the heavy lifting. But, not all coffee roasters are made the same. So, before you order a unit, you want to consider several important factors.
Think of factors such as your intended roasting style, roast level, quantity/capacity, and ease of maintenance, to name a few. If you are a small roastery, capacity is a crucial factor with both negative and positive connotations. Investing in a small-scale roaster will make it easier for a small start-up. This is because it helps you churn out small quantities and maintain low operational costs.
A small-scale roaster also makes it easier to experiment with different blends in the beginning without creating too much wastage. Additionally, a small-scale roaster is more affordable than a larger-scale one. However, a small-scale roaster makes it more difficult to scale your business over time should you want to grow.
A thermometer makes it easy to monitor the roast’s grill plate temperature during the roasting process. The purpose of a thermometer is to maintain even roast throughout the entire process. This, in turn, ensures even roast on every bean in the batch. The roast thermometer is usually inserted into the roasting chamber wall before the roasting process for accurate temperature tracking.
After roasting your beans, cooking trays offer a suitable place to cool them. They are usually made from stainless steel or aluminum with a flat surface to cool the beans evenly. They are also easy to clean, preventing residue from sticking to the surface and affecting future roasting.
Cooling trays come in various designs, including stationary and mobile (you can use them for roasting, cooling, and transferring from one roasting chamber to another) trays.
Blower systems maintain adequate and consistent hot air circulation within the roasting chamber. This, in turn, maintains even heat circulation during roasting across all parts of the chamber for even bean roasting. Like roasters and temperatures, blower systems also come in varying designs and styles.
Analysis tools are especially important for commercial roasteries to guarantee quality control. These include accessories such as color analyzers and moisture meters. As their name suggests, color analyzers will help you detect and pinpoint the roast level of your coffee. This, in turn, ensures each roasting process produces evenly and adequately roasted coffee.
On the other hand, moisture meters measure the moisture levels in coffee beans. Now, this device comes in handy during the first stage of coffee roasting, i.e. coffee drying. Before drying, gauging the moisture will help you understand the magnitude to which the beans require drying.
Like any other perishable product business, a weighing scale ensures every bag contains the same amount of coffee. A scale will also ensure every batch tastes the same since you have the same coffee weight in every bag. Standard roaster's weight scale typically ranges from up to 4Kgs. However, if you plan on offering larger coffee packages, you can purchase bigger scales.
Packing tools are handy for commercial roasters and coffee shops (that want to sell their roast blends) as they allow for mass packing without spending hours. These tools are usually automated, including automatic loaders, heat sealers, and coffee bags.
Other Smaller Tools
Other small tools involved in the roasting process include scoops and buckets. These are handy tools if you need automated handling tools, like packing tools. Scoops easily transport beans to and from the roasters onto buckets, scales, and packages.
Setting Up The Roasting Area
Home coffee roasting requires less attention if you maintain a clean and appropriate environment. Moreover, you want to store your green coffee in the proper recommended conditions. On the other hand, commercial roasters and coffee shops require the right roasting environment.
Here are the basic steps to setting up a commercial roasting area;
Separate green coffee storage space from the roasting area, cooling area, packing area, and packaged roasted coffee storage area. Allocating these spaces maintains a clean, neat, and efficient workflow. If you have multiple staff in your roastery, this allocation ensures staff stays within each other's workspace and disrupts production efficiency.
This also means you must pick up a large enough roasting space to promote efficiency and scale over time. On the other hand, when allocating roasted coffee bean storage, you have to remember that roasted coffee beans are more volatile than green coffee beans.
You have to consider the risks of microbial and fungal activity, moisture and mold build-up, and loss of flavor and aroma, to name a few. So, always ensure your packed roasted coffee beans are stored in a cool, dry, and dark place for quality maintenance.
In this case, you must consider a storage facility with amenities like air conditioning, minimal sun and natural lighting, zero humidity, and no strong surrounding aroma (roasted coffee is porous and picks up external smells).
Set Up A Clear Schedule
Set up a precise schedule to boost efficiency while maintaining quality control. For example, you can allocate 2 hours daily for roasting two batches in a 48kg roaster machine while an hour is set aside for packing. This is assuming you run a small roastery with a single 12 kg roaster and high demand. Ultimately, the schedule you set will highly depend on your roasting needs and capacity along with the roastery customer needs, if it’s commercial. Initially, you may have to revise the schedule until you hit the perfect rhythm and optimal efficiency.
Preparing The Green Coffee Beans
The next step is to prepare your green coffee beans for roasting. Follow the manufacturer’s manual on the number of beans and arrange the beans in the roaster. However, before transferring the beans into a roaster, you want to rewash them using running water. Remember, the beans have been through a long supply chain from the farmer to your roastery.
So, it’s essential to give them a good clean. The washing process doesn’t only clean the beans. It also helps moisturize them, an important characteristic the beans should possess during the roasting process.